How do you know if you’re an alcoholic or not? Well, you can judge yourself, but I happen to agree with the Big Book that there are two components, aside from the underlying spiritual illness. The first is physical. Have we crossed over that invisible line? Have we broken our body? Have we acquired an allergy to drugs and alcohol? In short, can we stop once we start?
I’m sure I didn’t start off as a full-fledged addict. It takes some time and effort to damage your body and brain past the point of no return. You need to get plastered or get high over and over and over again to cross that line. But when it happens, the body is forever changed.
You will die with the body of an addict. That is a fact. There is a unique physiological response when I put any mood-altering substance in my body. Sure, normal people will have a few drinks and feel the pleasure of that, but then they stop, go home, and go to bed so they can wake up coherent in the morning and go to work. The addict’s body is quite different. He has a few drinks and an allergy is set off. He experiences what Dr. Silkworth, in his letter to Alcoholics Anonymous, referred to as the ‘phenomenon of craving’. His body begins to crave more to the extent that he cannot stop drinking until either he passes out, gets arrested, gets committed, or dies.
In fact, if you are wondering, go test yourself. Go to a bar and start drinking. Have a few drinks and then see if you can stop. Can you? Better yet, see if you can have a few drinks and then stop for an entire year. Can you do that? The Big Book actually suggests that we test ourselves if there is any confusion as to whether or not we are an alcoholic. So go test yourself… unless your thing is speedballing heroin and cocaine into your aortic valve. That might kill you on the spot, and would sort of defeat the purpose of your test. We’d never know if you were a true junkbox!
It also doesn’t matter how frequently we drink. Nor does it matter if we’ve somehow conjured the willpower to stay sober for a year, or maybe even five or ten years. Once we have the body of an addict, it doesn’t matter how long we can wait before drinking again. Our bodies are still the same when we go to pick up. It’s a question of how we drink when we drink, not when we drink. Try staying sober for 25 years and then have a drink… and then call me from detox. If you were an alcoholic 25 years ago, you’re an alcoholic today.
The other component is mental and involves having a broken mind, if you will. Let’s do that another night, but in short, can you stay stopped once you stop? Can you? So bottom line: If you can’t stop once you start and you can’t stay stopped once you stop, chances are you’re an addict or alcoholic. And if all we do is remove the alcohol and drugs, we will relapse at some point. And once we relapse, we won’t stop. Relapsing will set off the phenomenon of craving.
So we addicts and alcoholics will always have the bodies of alcoholics and addicts. We will die that way. What we can recover from, however, is the mental/spiritual problem. And if we can become sane again through right action, then we can stay stopped.
God, please help me to understand my allergy, that I may help educate other alcoholics…